English mustard my be substituted

The first recipe I ever wrote - from my Kindergarten Class Cookbook - reads:

Stone Soup By Sarah

You need some stones that you’ve scrubbed a lot and you need a big pot. Then you get some carrots and put them in the pot. Throw in the stones. You have to have some onions. You though in the onions and some meat cubes. Spring some spices. Let it cook awhile. Throw in some potatoes. Put in some milk to make it sweet. Throw in some beets. You taste it.

I’m not sure I’d ever tasted a beet. I think if I had, it probably wouldn’t have made the otherwise very reasonable ingredient list for stone soup.

The next year, my palate grew slightly more sophisticated, and my first grade class cooked and hosted a medieval banquet (I must have spent a great deal of time learning to spell medieval. I was always very concerned with details.):

On the 16th of November the first grade had a banquet. We made our own recipes and menu. We had Dragon stew, apple pie, and bread with jam and butter, medieval eggs and purple blue milk. We cooked our own food. We got into groups and worked together. Every one make their own part. Poor Ben got sick!

Poor Ben. I apparently kept a focus on food as I progressed through elementary school. I described a rebellious third grade field trip in which:

We drove and I listened to my radio. Once the plug came out and “Get Back” blasted out. We stopped at a rest stop and half the bus bought pop. Then we drove to the border crossing. We were supposed to turn in our fruit, but I sneaked a apple and a banana through.

I’ve read that if you didn’t want to be a writer from an early age, there’s little hope you becoming one as an adult. As with any avocation, the key is practice, practice, practice. Get in those 10,000 hours. I have no memory of wanting to be a writer. When I hear people talk about filling notebooks with poems and journaling from a young age, it just doesn’t resonate. I did plenty of writing for school, including publishing The Five O’clock Whistle in 4th grade about my dad’s childhood paper route. I describe myself in the author’s bio as follows:

My name is Sarah Barthelow and my hobbys are reading writing playing sports and playing with my friends. My favorite colors are silver, gold, purple, green and blue. This is my favorite book published by Jell-o Inc. And I think you should know that I’d rather eat Ice cream than asparagus.

I’ve grown quite fond of asparagus, though I stand by my support of ice cream. In addition to feeling that stating my food preferences were quite important, I also blurbed my own book with fictitious reviewer comments.

From the back cover:

I read this book again and again and again and again and again and I’ll read it again. - Lopez Recycling Center
A educative book for young children - Lopez Librarian
It’s exciting as a rose bluming. - Lopez Gardening Club
It’s a rumor that’s true - Lopez Grapevine
Hot stuff! It burned me! - Lopez Fire Marshall

Apparently I developed a sense of humor early on, too. I am also a born-editor, as it turns out, having always had an appreciation for proper spelling and grammar.

5th grade: November 19, 1992

I am thankful for:
almost everything

In middle school, my love of food continued to feature prominently in what I wrote. Like this report on Italy. Fantastico!

6th grade: Report on Italy — Food

Italian cooking is very delicious. They use butter, olives, oil and tomatoes a lot while cooking. Most of their food is made from flour and water such as pizza, pasta, and bread. They eat a lot of bread. Fish, cheese, bread and wine are popular foods. Italian wine used to be known for its quantities, but now, as vineyards improve the quality of the wine is improving also. Different cities in Italy are known for specialty foods. Napoli is known for its stuffed peppers and pizza pie. Genoa, for its gnocchi al pesto (tiny dumplings with basil sauce.) Parma, for its parmesan cheese (of course.) So, when visiting Italy, don’t miss its fantastico food!

I never felt that compelling need to write that some writers talk about. I kept journals, but I never finished them. There’s something about my perfectionist nature that clashed with the open-ended creative free-form of writing. Yet I was always pretty good at it.  Evidence suggests that I may have enjoyed writing more than I remember.

7th grade -- Writing Survey

Why do people write: Because they have a message that they want to get across to other people so they write it down in a scenario for others to read.

What do you think good writer needs to do in order to write well? Have a clear message. Have their story poem relate to their message. Have good rhythm in your poem. Believe in what you write. Add lots of detail and descriptions (but not too many!)

In general, how do you feel bout what you write? I like to write poems more than stories. Most of my poems that I finish and put in final draft I like.

I have absolutely no memory of enjoying being a poet. None. I’m scared of poetry; not enough rules. Writing was always just something I did with out noticing I was doing it.


What would you like people to say after you die?

Sarah Barthelow lies here. She was our first woman president. She changed this country. She gave food to the poor, pulled us out of our national debt. She was a good person. As a child, she was a living nightmare. As she got older she got smarter and was elected. Now she is dead but her memory will live forever.

Clearly, my life goal was not to be a writer, but rather to be the leader of the free world. I’m not sure which pursuit is loftier. At least I was still concerned with feeding people.

I apparently developed my love of the parenthetical aside at a young age as well. I penned this poem in eighth grade:

If I were in charge of everything
we would have apple crisp for dinner
and nothing for dessert.
Brussel sprouts would be outlawed.
and Pizza would be a requirement.
We all would go swimming every day,
(except Jennifer Clarke because she always splashed me.)
And the water would taste like sugar,
(in case you accidentally swallowed it.)
There would be no rules.
If I were in charge…

There are some things you just can’t change. (A taste for Brussels sprouts not among them). You can change what you do, but you can’t change what you like to do. Some part of our nature is ingrained from the very beginning, even if it takes us a while to notice. I found scores of writing samples in my carefully filed work samples from childhood. How I managed to block them out, I'm not sure. I may not be one of those people who wakes up needing to write, but I'm well on my way to clocking in my 10,000 hours.

I recently came across a 3x5 notecard floating around in the junk drawer at my parents house. Sometimes it just takes looking backward to connect the dots, to see that we’ve spent all these years slowly working toward what we’ve become today. And that our proclivities for food or creativity or unwavering precision have been there all along.

Vinaigrette dressing:

2 tablespoons vinegar
5 tablespoons olive or nut oil
1 teaspoon French mustard
a pinch of salt and pepper

Put in bottle and shake well. If French mustard not available, English mustard may be substituted.